The Michelin Pilot SportsCar Challenge series held the second round of the championship at Sebring on Friday, with a two-hour race. There were five BMW M4 GT4s among the 27 GS class entries and three of them made it into the top five despite challenging BoP adjustments that have slowed them down since the opening round at Daytona.

There were no M4 GT4s on the podium in the opening race at Daytona, but they were fast enough that IMSA ratcheted down their performance before Sebring, giving them a 30kg increase in weight along with less fuel capacity and a reduction in power (from a level 7 power stick to a level 5). The M4 GT4 was the heaviest car at Sebring at 1,520kg, while the McLaren Artura GT4 and the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS CS were the lightest.

It was no surprise that Jesse Lazare took the #69 McLaren to the pole in qualifying with a 2:09.915 lap, followed by the #28 Porsche. Francis Selldorff was the fastest of the BMWs in seventh with a 2:11.363 in the #96 Turner Motorsport M4 GT4, around 1.5 seconds off the pole time of the McLaren. Sean McAllister was just behind Selldorff in the #39 CarBahn Motorsports car. Dillon Machavern also made it into the top ten in the #95 Turner Motorsport car.

Francis Selldorff and Robby Foley finished sixth in the #96 Turner Motorsport BMW after starting seventh.

The race was typical of a Michelin Pilot Challenge race, with 14 of the total 47 laps run under caution. With the decisions made in strategy and attrition of other cars, a few of the faster BMWs were running in the top ten around halfway through the race, with the Porsche (that qualified second) ahead of the McLaren up front. The complexion of the race would change after the faster drivers got into the cars during the second half of the race.

The best racing of the entire two hours took place in the last 30 minutes between the cars in second through fifth, with Jeff Westphal in the #39 BMW running in fifth. With 20 minutes left, Valentin Hasse Clot was running in third in the #19 Aston Martin just in front of Westphal, while Chad McCumbee was on Westphal’s bumper in the #13 Ford Mustang GT4. Westphal put in a fantastic drive to put pressure on the #19 car for third place while holding off the #13 Mustang. Westphal should have gotten by the Aston Martin, but Hasse Clot kept blocking him, which he received a warning for.

Jeff Westphal and Sean McAllister finished ninth in the #39 CarBahn Motorsport M4 GT4.

Meanwhile, the #69 McLaren that had fallen back was working its way back up through the field with Michael De Quesada at the wheel. He got right behind Westphal and with less than four minutes left made an overly aggressive move up in the inside, hitting the side of the BMW and spinning Westphal out of fourth place. Westphal recovered to finish in ninth, while the McLaren was given a penalty for avoidable contact. It was a blow to the CarBahn team, which was hoping for a better result after starting the opening race at Daytona from pole but suffering car issues on the first lap.

The #95 Turner Motorsport M4 GT4 driven by Dillon Machavern and Robert Megennis finished 14th.

Two of the other BMWs in the field had worked their way into the top ten in the last 40 minutes of the race, with the #92 Random Vandals M4 GT4 of Kenton Koch and Paul Sparta (pictured in top photo) finishing in fifth, followed by the #96 Turner Motorsport car of Robby Foley and Francis Selldorff in sixth. The race was won by the #71 Aston Martin Vantage GT4, followed by the #19 Aston Martin (that Westphal had been battling with for third place) and the #13 Mustang. The #95 Turner Motorsport M4 GT4 of Robert Megennis and Dillon Machavern finished in fourteenth, while the #43 Stephen Cameron Racing M4 GT4 of Greg Liefooghe and Sean Quinlan finished in seventeenth.

The #43 Stephen Cameron Racing M4 GT4 of Sean Quinlan and Gregory Liefooghe finished 17th.

The next round of the Michelin Pilot Challenge series takes place at Laguna Seca on May 10th-12th with a two-hour race, followed by a four-hour race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on June 7th-9th. —David Haueter

[Photos courtesy LAT IMAGES]



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